The NHS in north Cumbria is urging people who think they may have cancer symptoms to seek help, and to not be put off by the coronavirus pandemic.
It comes as national figures show cancer referrals by GPs have fallen by two thirds since the outbreak started.
Lynsey Robson, Macmillan Lead Cancer Nurse for North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We really want to encourage awareness and increase the vigilance in terms of the specific signs and symptoms for potential cancer diagnosis.”
Some signs and symptoms of cancer include:
Getting out of breath more easily
Blood in your pee or poo
Feeling bloated for three weeks or more
Changes in your breasts
Coughing for 3 weeks or more
Changes in your skin, such as moles
Having heartburn for 3 weeks or more
Any pain that doesn’t go away
Lynsey added: “These symptoms could be a sign of many things, but people are not wasting anyone's time by having them checked out. If you’re concerned your symptoms may be cancer, please contact your GP.”
“There’s support out there, and people can visit websites such as Macmillan, who have a lot of good support material, and they’ve got a helpline as well that’s available seven days a week for people to contact if they’ve got concerns. Also there’s a really good Cancer Research UK website.
“But ultimately what we want to encourage the population to do is please just contact your GP Practice – make contact with them, you can do a telephone consultation and get a bit of advice, and then see whether there is any need for a referral into secondary care.”
Health bosses say they are aware some people may have thought twice about contacting their GP or visiting hospital because they are concerned they may catch coronavirus.
Lynsey said: “Patients who are concerned they may have symptoms of cancer can contact their GP via telephone in the first instance, and have a consultation remotely from the safety of their own home.
“The appointments are scheduled so that it reduces an unnecessary number of patients coming in all at one time, and we are trying to reduce the amount of family members or carers that are coming into the department, encouraging patients to come on their own where they can."
Lynsey added: “We are here and we want to see patients, and if we need to take them through investigations that will lead to a potential cancer diagnosis, we don’t want to delay this if we don’t need to.
“The Government advice for COVID-19 is to Stay Alert for signs and symptoms of COVID, and what we would also say is to Stay Alert to the signs and symptoms of cancer.”